Submissions for 2020 Book Prize

Molly Aitken - The Island Child

book cover of Molly Aitken's The Island ChildTwenty years ago, Oona left the island of Inis for the very first time. A wind-blasted rock of fishing boats and turf fires, where girls stayed in their homes until they became mothers themselves, the island was a gift for some, a prison for others. 

The Island Child tells two stories: of the girl who grew up watching births and betrayals, storms and secrets, and of the adult Oona, desperate to find a second chance, only to discover she can never completely escape. As the strands of Oona's life come together, in blood and marriage and motherhood, she must accept the price we pay when we love what is never truly ours...

Molly Aitken was born in Scotland in 1991 and brought up in Ireland. She studied Literature and Classics at Galway University and has a MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa. She was shortlisted for Writing Magazine's fairy tale retelling prize in 2016 and has a story in the Irish Imbas 2017 Short Story Collection. Currently, she works as an editor and ghostwriter and lives in Sheffield. The Island Child is her debut novel 



Niamh Campbell - This Happy *Shortlisted*

This Happy book cover (painting of a woman face on with brown hair in a blue top)

I have taken apart every panel of this, like an ornamental fan. But we stayed in the cottage for three weeks only, just three weeks, because it was cut short you see – cut short after just three weeks, when I’d left my entire life behind.

When Alannah was twenty-three, she met a man who was older than her – a married man – and fell in love. Things happened suddenly. They met in April, in the first bit of mild weather; and in August, they went to stay in rural Ireland, overseen by the cottage’s landlady.

Six years later, when Alannah is newly married to another man, she sees the landlady from afar. Memories of those days spent in bliss, then torture, return to her. And the realisation that she has been waiting – all this time – to be rediscovered.

Niamh Campbell holds a PhD in English literature from King's College London and works as a postdoctoral fellow for the Irish Research Council at Maynooth University. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in The Dublin Review, 3:AM Magazine, The Penny Dreadful, Banshee, gorse, and the collection Autonomy (New Binary Press, 2018), published in aid of the campaign to repeal the eighth amendment in Ireland. She was awarded a 'Next Generation' literary bursary by the Arts Council of Ireland in 2016, and an annual literary bursary in 2018. She is based in Dublin.


Oein DeBhairduin — Why the moon travels

why the moon travels book cover black and white abstract imageWhy the moon travels is a haunting collection of twenty tales rooted in the oral tradition of the Irish Traveller community. Brave vixens, prophetic owls and stalwart horses live alongside the human characters as guides, protectors, friends and foes while spirits, giants and fairies blur the lines between this world and the otherworld. Collected by Oein DeBhairduin throughout his childhood, retold in his lyrical style, and beautifully illustrated by Leanne McDonagh.

Oein DeBhairduin is a creative soul with a passion for poetry, folk herbalism and preserving the beauty of Traveller tales, sayings, retellings and historic exchanges. He is the manager of an education centre and a long-time board member of several Mincéirí community groups, including having had the honour of being vice-chair of the Irish Traveller Movement and a council member of Mincéir Whidden. He seeks to pair community activism with cultural celebration, recalling old tales with fresh modern connections and, most of all, he wishes to rekindle the hearth fires of a shared kinship. 


Susannah Dickey — Tennis Lessons

tennis lessons book cover image from a party, including a couple kissing and young people drinkingThis is the voice that rings in your ears. Because you never say the right thing. You're a disappointment to everyone. You're a far cry from beautiful - and your thoughts are ugly too.
You seem bound to fail, bound to break.
But you know what it is to laugh with your best friend, to feel the first tentative tingles of attraction, to take exquisite pleasure in the affront of your unruly body.
You just need to find your place.

From dead pets and crashed cars to family traumas and misguided love affairs, Susannah Dickey's revitalizing debut novel plunges us into the private world of one young woman as she navigates her rocky way to adulthood.

Susannah Dickey grew up in Derry and now lives between Belfast and London. She is the author of two poetry pamphlets, I had some very slight concerns (2017) and genuine human values (2018). Her poetry has been published in Ambit, The White Review, Poetry Ireland Review and Magma, amongst others. In 2018 she was shortlisted for The White Review short story prize, and in 2017 she was the winner of the inaugural Verve Poetry Festival competition. Her debut novel, Tennis Lessons, was published in July 2020.

Naoise Dolan — Exciting Times

exciting times book cover red and orange drawing of two black toothbrushes in a glassWhen you leave Ireland aged 22 to spend your parents’ money, it’s called a gap year. When Ava leaves Ireland aged 22 to make her own money, she’s not sure what to call it, but it involves:
– a badly-paid job in Hong Kong, teaching English grammar to rich children;
– Julian, who likes to spend money on Ava and lets her move into his guest room;
– Edith, who Ava meets while Julian is out of town and actually listens to her when she talks;
– money, love, cynicism, unspoken feelings and unlikely connections.
Exciting times ensue.

Naoise Dolan is an Irish writer born in Dublin. She studied English Literature at Trinity College Dublin and Oxford University. Exciting Times is her first novel, an excerpt from which was published in The Stinging Fly. Exciting Times received critical acclaim and was shortlisted for Newcomer of the Year at the AN Post Irish Book Awards. Naoise was shortlisted for The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year award in 2020.

Hilary Fannin - The Weight of Love *Shortlisted*

the weight of love book cover - dark haired woman lying front down on a bed looking sideways so her face is front onLondon, 1996. Robin and Ruth meet in the staff room of an East London school. Robin, desperate for a real connection, instantly falls in love. Ruth, recently bereaved and fragile, is tentative.
When Robin introduces Ruth to his childhood friend, Joseph, a tortured and talented artist, their attraction is instant. Powerless, Robin watches on as the girl he loves and his best friend begin a passionate and turbulent affair.

Dublin 2017. Robin and Ruth are married and have a son, Sid, who is about to emigrate to Berlin. Theirs is a marriage haunted by the ghost of Joseph and as the distance between them grows, Robin makes a choice that could have potentially devastating consequences.

The Weight of Love is a beautiful exploration of how we manage life when the notes and beats of our existence, so carefully arranged, begin to slip off the stave. An intimate and moving account of the intricacies of marriage and the myriad ways in which we can love and be loved.

Hilary Fannin is an award-winning playwright and newspaper columnist. Born in Dublin, where she still lives, she was writer in association at the Abbey Theatre in its centenary year. Her plays, including Mackerel Sky, Doldrum Bay, Famished Castle and an adaptation of Racine’s Phaedra, have been performed in Ireland, London, Europe and North America. She writes a weekly column for the Irish Times and was awarded Irish Columnist of the Year in 2019. Her memoir, Hopscotch, was published to critical acclaim in 2015. The Weight of Love is her first novel.

Elaine Feeney - As You Were

as you were book cover teal background with the book title in yellow writing with a magpie to the left of the titleSinéad Hynes is a tough, driven, funny young property developer with a terrifying secret.
No-one knows it: not her fellow patients in a failing hospital, and certainly not her family. She has confided only in Google and a shiny magpie.

But she can't go on like this, tirelessly trying to outstrip her past and in mortal fear of her future. Across the ward, Margaret Rose is running her chaotic family from her rose-gold Nokia. In the neighbouring bed, Jane, rarely but piercingly lucid, is searching for a decent bra and for someone to listen. Sinéad needs them both.
As You Were is about intimate histories, institutional failures, the kindness of strangers, and the darkly present past of modern Ireland. It is about women's stories and women's struggles. It is about seizing the moment to be free.

Wildly funny, desperately tragic, inventive and irrepressible, As You Were introduces a brilliant voice in Irish fiction with a book that is absolutely of our times.

Elaine Feeney has published three collections of poetry, Where’s Katie?The Radio was GospelRise, and a drama piece, WRoNGHEADED, commissioned by Liz Roche Company. She teaches at The National University of Ireland, Galway and St Jarlath’s College. Her work has been widely published and anthologised in Poetry ReviewThe Stinging FlyThe Irish TimesCopper NickelStonecutter Journal and others. As You Were is her fiction debut.

Desmond Gallagher - Waterford Street

Waterford street 'a novel inspired by Irish events' dark red cover with a street scene This novel is largely set in Dublin during the early 1900s.Lily Clancy becomes widowed, and is left with three young sons. She has no income or support and, worse still, she is becoming addicted to drink. From relative comfort, she is forced to take her young family to live in a tenement in Waterford Street.In 1922, a Civil War begins and Bernard her middle son enlists in the new National Army of Ireland. He is deployed to Kerry, where the bitterest atrocities of this 'brother-against-brother' conflict occur.During furlough in Dublin, Bernard falls in love with Madeline, but his mother, Lily, resents her 'stealing' her son.The story is about ordinary people living their lives in extraordinary times, mostly unaware of the history happening around them. The novel explores many laneways, all adding flesh to the bones of the characters. Whilst the history of the time provides the backdrop to the story, the principal interest is always the human one.

Desmond Gallagher was born in the Rotunda, Dublin, a mere 4 minute walk from Waterford Street. It was just after the war and his parents were from out of town, making his early influences a mixed bag. This produced exposure to Dublin ways through the local school, modified by the country ways of his parents which enriched his home life. From an early age he gradually became aware that he was part of a compulsive and illogical club when he found himself writing for the sake of writing as opposed to writing because of a specific task or need.

So, writing has been with him like an unshakeable shadow, which has materialised at various times, like the week spent in workshop with the Irish writer Bryan McMahon in Listowel in the county of Kerry, like writing a local history for the community of Donaghmede in North Dublin, or, having the privilege of taking home an impressive trophy for a year after managing to win a short story competition in Swords, County Dublin. The non-fiction book Shooting Suns and Things, etc, is a homage to pioneering fliers, and to Portmarnock beach just north of Dublin that was used as a runway in early 1930s, there being no tarmac versions at the time in Ireland.

Waterford Street is a first novel and it's an understatement to say that it took some time in the making. There are other novels in the drawer, hiding in shame, but they should be proud of themselves because what followed them has been built on their backs.

Michelle Gallen - Big Girl Small Town

big girl small town book cover - book title in black text over a handdrawn red image of a portion of chipsRoutine makes Majella’s world small but change is about to make it a whole lot bigger.
*Stuff Majella knows*
-God doesn’t punish men with baldness for wearing ladies’ knickers
-Banana-flavoured condoms taste the same as nutrition shakes
-Not everyone gets a volley of gunshots over their grave as they are being lowered into the ground
*Stuff Majella doesn’t know*
-That she is autistic
-Why her ma drinks
-Where her da is
Other people find Majella odd. She keeps herself to herself, she doesn’t like gossip and she isn’t interested in knowing her neighbours’ business. But suddenly everyone in the small town in Northern Ireland where she grew up wants to know all about hers.

Since her da disappeared during the Troubles, Majella has tried to live a quiet life with her alcoholic mother. She works in the local chip shop (Monday-Saturday, Sunday off), wears the same clothes every day (overalls, too small), has the same dinner each night (fish and chips, nuked in the microwave) and binge watches Dallas (the best show ever aired on TV) from the safety of her single bed. She has no friends and no boyfriend and Majella thinks things are better that way.
But Majella’s safe and predictable existence is shattered when her grandmother dies and as much as she wants things to go back to normal, Majella comes to realise that maybe there is more to life. And it might just be that from tragedy comes Majella’s one chance at escape.

Michelle Gallen was born in Tyrone in the 1970s and grew up during the Troubles a few miles from the border. She studied English Literature at Trinity College Dublin and Publishing at Stirling University. She has had work published in the Stinging Fly, Mslexia and others and won the Orange/NW Short Story Award. She suffered a devastating brain injury in her mid-20s which took her several years to recover from. She has now returned to writing in her 40s. Michelle lives in Dublin. Big Girl, Small Town was shortlisted for the Comedy Women in Print Prize and Newcomer of the Year at the Irish Book Awards.

Craig Jordan-Baker - The Nacullians

Nacullians book cover - red brick wall, half painted white with an outline of a single brick under the book title across the topWelcome to the world of The Nacullians, three generations of one family, living in a brick house in a line of other brick houses. Craig Jordan-Baker's dark comedy charts the tensions and traumas of one family and their relationship with the city they inhabit.

Craig Jordan-Baker has published fiction in New Writing, Text, Firefly Magazine, Potluck and in the epoque press ezine. His drama has been widely performed in the UK, including his adaptation of Beowulf and he has had dramatic work commissioned from The National Archives, The Booth Museum of Natural History and the Theatre Royal Brighton. Craig lives in Brighton and is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at The University of Brighton. The Nacullians is Craig's debut novel.

Marianne Lee - A Quiet Tide

a quiet tide by Marianne Lee book cover - dark blue with white abstract floral design, book title is centred to the left authors name is top right At the time of her death in 1815, twenty-nine-year-old Ellen Hutchins had catalogued over a thousand species of seaweed and plants from her native Bantry Bay. Ireland’s first female botanist, Ellen was a major contributor to nineteenth-century scientific discovery. And yet, like so many brilliant women lost in history, it is her personal story that will resonate today.

In her remarkable debut novel, Marianne Lee fuses fact with fiction to imagine Ellen’s rich but tormented inner life, repressed by the gender and class confines of her time. Unmarried, childless and sickly, Ellen is considered an ‘unsuccessful’ woman, dutifully bound to her family’s once grand and isolated estate, Ballylickey House. Still, she glimpses a happiness and autonomy she can never quite articulate as she reaches for meaning and expression, until the eruption of a long-simmering family feud and the rise of Ellen’s own darkness – her ‘quiet tide’ – will conspire to destroy her fragile future.

A Quiet Tide is a life examined, a heartbreaking, inspiring story that at last captures the essence and humanity of a long-forgotten Irishwoman.

Marianne Lee grew up in Tullamore, Co. Offaly and now lives in Dublin with her husband. She has a first-class honours degree in Visual Communications from the National College of Art and Design and an MPhil in Creative Writing from Trinity College Dublin. Marianne works as a freelance designer and copywriter and has published a selection of poetry as well as self-recorded an album of music. She sings Bach and paints landscapes.  She was winner of the 2019 Irish Writers Centre annual Novel Fair where her first novel A Quiet Tide, a fictionalised account of the life of 19th Century botanist Ellen Hutchins, was acquired by New Island Books.

Alice Lyons - Oona

Oona by Alice Lyons - book title and authors name are aligned right and the main image is a circle of red dustWhat is the sound of a voice that is alienated from itself? How can one truthfully represent the creative process of an artist? Oona, an artist-in-the-making, lives in an affluent suburban culture of first-generation immigrants in New Jersey where conspicuous consumption and white privilege prevail, and the denial of death is ubiquitous. The silence surrounding death extends to the family home where Oona is not told while her mother lies dying of cancer upstairs. Afterwards, a silence takes hold inside her: her inner life goes into a deep freeze. Emotionally hobbled, she has her first encounters with sex, drugs and other trials of adolescence.

Lyons’ first novel gives voice to a female character on her fraught journey into adulthood and charts her evolution as an artist, as her adolescent dissociation is thawed through contact with the physical world, the materials of painting and her engagement with Irish community, culture and landscape.

Set during the era of the Celtic Tiger and its aftermath, this is a resonant story conveyed in an innovative form. Written entirely without the letter ‘o’, the tone of the book reflects Oona’s inner damage and the destruction caused by hiding, omitting and obliterating parts of ourselves.

Alice Lyons is a versatile artist and film-maker. She is a recipient of the Patrick Kavanagh Award for Poetry and the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary. Originally from the US, she has lived in the west of Ireland for twenty years. She was a Radcliffe Fellow in Poetry and New Media at Harvard University 2016/17. Her poetry film The Polish language was nominated for an Irish Television and Film Award (ifta). Throughout her career she has created work that brings literature into new contexts, media and communities. She currently lectures in creative writing at IT Sligo and is poet-in-residence with the Yeats Society, Sligo. Her debut novel Oona is published by Lilliput Press.

Frances Macken - You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here

You have to make your own fun by Frances Macken book cover - abstract pastel shapes with the book title and author's name centred in white textKatie, Maeve and Evelyn - friends forever, united by their childhood games and their dreams of escaping the tiny Irish town of Glenbruff. 
Outspoken, unpredictable and intoxicating, Evelyn is the undisputed leader of the trio. That is, until the beautiful, bold Pamela Cooney arrives from Dublin and changes Glenbruff forever...
Told from Katie's witty, quirky perspective, Frances Macken's debut beautifully captures life in a small town and the power of yearning for something bigger. Filled with unforgettable characters and crackling dialogue, You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here takes a keen-eyed look at the complexities of female friendship, the corrosive power of jealousy and guilt, and the way that life can quietly erode our dreams unless we're willing to fight for them.

Frances Macken is from Claremorris, Co. Mayo. She completed a BA in Film and Television Production at the National Film School, Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Oxford and is the author of several short stories. You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here is her debut work of literary fiction.

Sarah Manvel - You Ruin it When You Talk

You ruin it when you talk by Sarah Manvel book cover - a pair of legs in black trousers with what appears to be eyes at the waistband and a purple heart sitting in the wasitband with the book title and authors name in small text at the topForget how do we find lasting happiness in a quick-swipe dating world. How do we find just a few moments of it? The quest for love - or a pleasant evening - is captured here in a series of flickering anecdotes that are sometimes darkly humorous, often deftly poignant.

Manvel’s debut is as disarming as it is funny and insightful. This brutal account of modern manners skewers the chicken fillets of romantic literature with stiletto-sharp heels.

“Depressing and hilarious reports from a very bad time for human interaction.” — Your next date.

Sarah Manvel was born in the USA to a military family and had ten addresses in three countries before her tenth birthday. She went to high school in Brittany and Maryland and university in New York and Belfast before graduating from The Evergreen State College in Washington state. She acquired Irish citizenship through marriage, and the day after the Brexit vote her first husband called to congratulate her on her foresight. She is a film and book critic, i.e., unemployed, and has lived in London for twenty years. For fun, she likes to ask potential matches in dating apps about the most recent book they read by a female author. You Ruin It When You Talk is her first book. Hopefully it won’t be the last.

John O'Donnell - Almost the Same Blue

Almost the same blue by John O'Donnell book cover - book title and author's name are centred over an image of a rusty ladder going down into a swimming poolAlmost the Same Blue is a collection of sixteen short stories written by John O’Donnell.

John O’Donnell’s work has been published and broadcast widely in Ireland and abroad. His fiction has been published in The Hennessy Book of Irish Fiction, The Sunday Tribune, The Sunday Independent, The Stinging Fly and elsewhere, online in Books Ireland, The Irish Writers’ Centre and The Irish Times, and broadcast on RTE Radio’s The Book On One. In 2013 his story Shelley won the Hennessy Award for Emerging Fiction, and in 2016 his story Marks won the Cuirt International Festival of Literature New Writing Prize for Fiction.

He has also published four poetry collections, the latest of which is Sunlight: New And Selected Poems (Dedalus Press, 2018). Awards for poetry include the Irish National Poetry Prize, the Ireland Funds Prize and the Hennessy Award for Poetry. A Senior Counsel, he lives and works in Dublin.

Cathy Sweeney - Modern Times *Shortlisted*

Modern Times by Cathy Sweeney book cover - pink cover with the book title and author centred at the top. Main image is a banana and two plums in a lunchboxThere once was …
a woman who loved her husband’s cock so much that she began taking it to work in her lunchbox.
a man who made films without a camera, which transfixed his estranged daughter.
a couple who administered electric shocks to each other, to be reminded of what love is.
a world where you wake up one day and notice that, one by one, people are turning blue
Startling, wry, beguiling and emotionally charged – the stories in Modern Times might be reminiscent of Lydia Davis, Angela Carter and Daisy Johnson, but they are also unlike anything you’ve read before.

Cathy Sweeney lives in Dublin. She studied at Trinity College and taught English at secondary level for many years before turning to writing. Her work has been published in various magazines and journals.